2017 marks inaugural year of national cocoa festivity


THE year 2017 will go down in the history of PNG’s Cocoa Industry as the birth year of the National Cocoa Awards Festivals. For the first time in PNG’s agriculture history, the Cocoa Board of Papua New Guinea, with support from Air Niugini hosted the National Cocoa of Excellence show in Kokopo, East New Britain between May 25 and 27. The event was branded as ‘PNG Cocoa Warwagira’ in East New Britain’s Kuanua language with warwagira meaning ‘a show or display’.
Cocoa samples were collected from all the registered cocoa fermentaries in the seven cocoa growing provinces and were by international judges. Six international chocolate judges were involved in the Kokopo event- they included Nathaniel Bletter, co-founder and ‘Flavormeister’ at Madre Chocolates in Hawaii; Lynn Jahnke from Charleys Chocolates in Australia; Luke Spencer from Spencer Chocolates in Australia; Sam Ratto from Videri Chocolates in the US; Martin Christy, founder of the chocolate review website Seventy %; and David Peate, former managing director of Paradise Foods in PNG
It was during the Air Niugini National Cocoa Festivals that the Cocoa Board of PNG Field Service Manager Dr Arnold Parapi, who coordinated the inaugural PNG Cocoa Show, mentioned that the high quality of our cocoa is attributed mainly to two things and they are the genetic background of our cocoa and the environmental conditions we have.
“Our cocoa’s genetic material is among the best in the world and our environmental conditions are naturally suited to producing high quality cocoa. However, as stated, more is needed in ensuring that quality remains,” said Dr Parapi.
He also went on to say that PNG must ensure that it maintains that quality internationally. The industry best practices refer to the best available methods used in nurseries and right thru production of cocoa products.
The inaugural event saw for the first time a female cocoa farmer winning most of the first prize awards and got the National Gold Award for the best cocoa sample in PNG. New cocoa farmer Grace Klembasa from West Sepik was judged the best from amongst 18 finalists selected from nearly 100 samples submitted from farmers around PNG.
A small-holder with 2,000 cocoa trees and supported by a committed family unit, Klembasa’s story was an inspiration not only for female farmers but for the cocoa industry as it embarks on improving cocoa quality. The silver award went to Derek and Brett Middleton of Kulili Plantation on Karkar Island in Madang, and smallholder John Yalabing of Lower Watut in Morobe was awarded the bronze. Ramandu Plantation in East New Britain and Madang’s Kulili Plantation were also commended for the quality of their samples.
Six winning samples from the PNG National Cocoa Awards were then sent to Paris for the 2017 International Cocoa Awards in late October. Two of the samples were then selected among 48 others samples from around the world. Karkar’s Kulili plantation and ENBP’s Illugi Cooperative were shortlisted to partake in the Salon Du Chocolat Cocoa Festivals in Paris. While both entries didn’t get any recognition in that event, they still stand proudly among the top 50 cocoa samples from around 40 different countries.
The Illugi Cooperative was a success story out of of the Cocoa Board’s Productive Partnership in Agriculture Projects (PPAP) initiative. The cocoa rehabilitation, extension and training project was a partnership scheme funded by PPAP from 2012 to 2017. The four year project was managed by the East New Britain Development Cooperation.
Illugi Cooperative won the best Cocoa Cooperative award in Papua New Guinea during the Warwagira cocoa of excellence; beating hot favorites, Watut Cocoa Cooperative which had become the national icon following its success at the International Cocoa Awards in Paris in 2015 where Wals Cocoa Cooperative took part and won an award under the Asia-Pacific region.
Papua New Guinea’s fine flavor cocoa beans have been gaining fame among the World’s top Chocolate makers in Europe since 2009.  And all that bearing of good fruit is thanks to the Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) programme. The CoEx is the entry point for cocoa-producers to participate in the International Cocoa Awards (ICA), a global competition recognizing the work of cocoa farmers and celebrating the diversity of cocoa flavors.
Every two years, this unique programme, spearheaded by Bioversity International and Event International recognizes quality, flavor and diversity of cocoas according to their origin.
The CoEX programme brings together leading sensory evaluation experts, the chocolate industry and the next generation of cocoa pioneers. It recognizes and rewards cocoa with exceptional and unique flavours, while bringing know-how, cocoa evaluation tools, market opportunities and incentives for safeguarding cocoa diversity to farming communities and national organizations globally.
Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the Parc des expositions in Paris for the exhibition. Visitors will find chocolatiers, patissiers, confectioners and other artisans from all over the world (France, Belgium, Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Portugal, PNG and so on). A wide range of activities and events happens at this fair and it usually lasts for five days. Visitors can attend the pastry shows (with cooking demonstrations by top chefs), the cacao show, the choco sphere (conferences and tastings), and workshops for children, and of course the famous chocolate fashion show featuring models wearing dresses made of chocolate.
PNG cocoa producers can be part of this expo if they grow and produce the best cocoa beans and have a registered fermentry with the Cocoa Board of PNG. All cocoa beans are monitored and quality checked by all buyers around the nation.

  • Maisan Pahun Information and Communication officer with Productive Partnership in Agricultures Project (PPAP) Cocoa Project Management Unit.